Cycling in all weathers

A cyclist holding an umbrella

At the start of the year, I set out my stall and said that cycling would be my priority in 2016. I’m not really living up to that so far. I’m still cycle-commuting every day, but I’ve not spent much of my free time on my bike. That’s something I definitely need to fix!

I’ve been pondering the reasons that are preventing me from getting out as much as I’d like:

  • Lack of free time
  • Not having the right clothing
  • Not having the right bike
  • Unpredictable weather

So, what can I do to tackle these?

Not having enough time

I can’t magically add an additional hour in the day, but some careful organisation can make it feel that way. I don’t enjoy cycling in the dark – even with fantastic lights – as it doesn’t feel as safe and I don’t enjoy the reduced visibility. For me, part of the joy of cycling is enjoying the surroundings, so cycling in the dark limits my ability to appreciate the pretty views of the countryside. Anyway, sometimes needs must. I leave some basic lights on my work bike all of the times (something like Knog Frog lights are great). As they’re quite cheap, I don’t worry about them being stolen and on a couple of occasions when I’ve failed to charge my main lights, I’ve been able to get myself home

Advance organisation

To ensure that I have enough time for cycling, I need to get myself organised in advance, For me this means:

  • Locating the clothes that I want to wear.
  • Filling my drinks bottles the night before.
  • Charging my Garmin and putting it on my bike… and making sure it’s set for cycling, not swimming!!! (Do you ever find you’re on the wrong setting?)
  • Finding the right nutrition or snacks to take with me.
  • Putting my bank card and a bank-note in my phone case.
  • Checking my bike tyres are appropriately inflated.

What else do you organise before going cycling?

Not having the right clothing

Most of the time, I have the right clothing for cycling. That’s mainly because I’ve built up quite an extensive collection of garments. In most seasons, I love wearing my SOAS jersey and tri shorts, perhaps with arm warmers and knee warmers, but in the British winter that’s not enough.

As I said, I usually wear tri shorts and knee warmers. However, I also have some thermal tights and bib tights for when it’s really cold and windy. Bib tights are great as they help to ensure that you stay warm and cosy. A downside is that combined with a number of layers they make going to the loo a long and complicated process!

Cycling jackets

For commuting to work, I have a sturdy waterproof and windproof jacket. It has room to layer up underneath and plenty of reflective strips as I often cycle to and from work in the dark. I’m now onto my second commuter jacket and there are some subtle differences from my first one. My first jacket had a traditional cycling pocket on the rear and one small breast pocket; my latest jacket has a breast pocket that is great for my keys and work ID card (which is a swipe card to get me into the bike shed), but it also has two waist pockets, which make it more useful for when wearing it at work. (I work at a university with a large campus and I often have to walk between buildings for meetings).

`My latest jacket is vivid turquoise, whereas my first jacket was fluorescent yellow. Research has shown that reflective strips are more important than colour choice, so although it’s not the most popular colour for a high-vis jacket it works better for me when I have to use it for its other purpose. Finally, this jacket has a detachable hood. It’s not necessary for cycling, but it is great for walking around at work. (If I didn’t have to walk around at work, I would probably get a Provis jacket or Dare2b reflective jacket. A few friends have them and they show up so well when light hits them).

For road cycling, I have two jackets that I wear a lot. One is a compact waterproof that can fit into a jersey pocket and the other is a soft-shell jacket that keeps me warm and dry in wet and windproof conditions. (I also have a gilet, but I hardly ever wear it!)

Footwear for cycling in all weathers

In summer, I can wear almost anything on my feet. In winter having cold and wet feet can make for a miserable ride. I’m a bit obsessed with ensuring that my cycling kit matches, so I quite often have the socks that go with my jersey and shorts. If not then black or white socks will go with most of my kit. In cold and rainy weather, I resort to my Sealskinz socks, but my husband and several of his cycling buddies prefer Woolie Boolie socks. Maybe he’ll get me some for my birthday this month!

My friend Jules has been investigating ways of keeping his feet warm and dry when cycling in winter. (He’s tried using a boot dryer to ensure he doesn’t have to put on damp shoes. He has also been wrapping his feet in tinfoil. Apparently, it works). He’s tried Woolie Boolie socks and loves them.

Cycling shoes

I have two pairs of cycling shoes – tri shoes that have bike holes in the sole to allow water to drain away quickly and traditional cycling shoes. The tri shoes are not much fun in winter as the same holes that allow water to drain away during races also allow rainwater in during winter, and they’re very draughty! My other cycling shoes are much warmer. Sadly, women don’t have as much choice of cycling shoes as men, but I managed to find a pair in the sales that have 3 velcro straps and that fit me perfectly (they’re similar to these Shimano shoes).

I also have toe covers and overshoes that I use depending on the weather conditions. The toe covers are great when it’s a bit breezy or there might be some light drizzle. They can be put on your shoes before you put the shoes on. Overshoes have different kinds of functionality. Some team kits have overshoes that are essentially big socks that go over your shoes. As far as I know, their main purpose is to make your feet a bit more aerodynamic and to make your kit look beautifully coordinated. I don’t own any of these. My overshoes are made of neoprene and help to keep my feet warm and dry. My only grumble about them is that they tend to be unisex. I have small feet on a unisex sizing scale, but I have chubby ankles, so I find the velcro ankle strap to be a bit tight.

Winter clothing

I always wear something on my hands when I am cycling, unless it’s a very short commute across The Common in summer. My hands are too precious to risk grazing them! There are lots of options to choose from, including mitts (fingerless gloves), full-finger gloves and ones with fancy options such as being touch-screen compatible. I’ve tried many pairs of cycling gloves and found that having the right pair can really change your cycling experience. If they are too small, you will probably find that you get pain between your thumb and forefinger. I didn’t like having mitts with gel pads. Mine just have a suede panel on the palm. In spring and autumn, I sometimes wear a pair of lightweight cotton gloves that have a waterproof mitten cap that can be pulled over my fingers (similar to these Chiba gloves). In winter, I wear waterproof and windproof ‘all-weather’ gloves that have some reflective bits on them. If I were buying new ones, I might be tempted by fully-reflective gloves as too many drivers seem to ignore my hand signals when I need to turn right!

I also always wear a headband under my cycling helmet. I hate getting cold ears and also don’t like wind noise. My favourite headbands are by Bondi band. They come in a wide range of colours and have some really humorous slogans! If it’s really cold, I also layer up with a base layer t-shirt.

What’s your ‘go to’ cycling kit?

Not having the right bike

My next grumble that prevents me from doing all of the cycling I want is not having the right bike. According to Velominati:

Rule #12 //

The correct number of bikes to own is n+1.

While the minimum number of bikes one should own is three, the correct number is n+1, where n is the number of bikes currently owned. This equation may also be re-written as s-1, where s is the number of bikes owned that would result in separation from your partner.

I currently have a hybrid bike, a touring bike (aka a road bike with a pannier rack) and a carbon road bike. A cyclocross bike would be great. I could use it on trails in the New Forest and for cyclocross racing. I’d also like to have a tri bike for race season! A fat bike would be another great addition, just because they look fun to ride.

I sometimes ride my Kuota Kharma Evo (carbon road bike) in winter when really I should be on my Giant Defy because I’m too lazy to take the pannier rack off. Neither bike has mudguards (the Giant lost its mudguards in Japan as they made packing it up to travel on trains more complicated than necessary), but I really think I need to invest in some ‘ass savers‘ as my white jacket needs a bit of a soak at the moment!

Do you have enough bikes?

Unpredictable weather

Finally, there’s not a lot I can do about unpredictable weather except for being prepared for all eventualities. I always take some snacks, my phone and some money and a bank card with me when I go cycling. In my pockets, I also have a buff (neck gaiter) and a lightweight rain jacket. I failed to pack adequate kit for cycling in the Japanese Alps. That meant I spent a couple of days wearing just about everything I had. Shorts with knee warmers and calf guards is not a good look, but it was so cold that my legs were hidden beneath waterproof trousers!!!

Wrapped up before our first full day of cycling in Japan
Wrapped up before our first full day of cycling in Japan

Halfords have produced this great infographic detailing the basic kit you need to enjoy year-round cycling (click on it to view it full size):

Halfords year round essentials for cycling

What advice can you give to encourage others to keep cycling in all weathers?

Obviously, living in the south of the UK, the weather doesn’t get too extreme here. If you want to read what my cycling heroes do when it’s really cold, please check out their blogs:

This post was sponsored by Halfords. All of the opinions included are my own.

12 Responses

  1. We’ve got six road bikes and four mountain bikes in our home… at some point that n+1 gets out of hand. Still, my wife and I are looking at cross bikes too.

    Great post.

  2. Ah ah! We have two MTB, two tri bikes, 1 road bike (commuter), one very good multipurpose kids bike (but the kid now also wants a fancy road bike) and also looking at cross bikes! Bikes are all living in the house… Must admit that most winter training is done on the home trainer though, with the odd 2-4 times a month long MTB ride.

    • Yes, that was the bit I forgot to add in about cycling in all weathers… my new house now has a turbo trainer room (probably a study in most people’s opinion!) with not one, not two, but three trainers in it, even though only two of us live in the house. However, I get bored on the trainer, so I’ve only used it once this year.

      • That sounds perfect! Three trainers is a kind of ideal place really if you can’t make it to the sun… Agreed, it is boring but it’s also done my general culture some good (catch-up on the laptop and general documentaries…)

  3. Thanks for this, it’s really useful. Like you I intended to make this the year of the bike, that was until finding out just how important it is to have a good set of lights….and still not decided on which to buy…is 600 lumen bright enough for roads without streetlights?

    • That’s a really good question, Polly. It could be if you know the route well and there aren’t any hazards. I was trying to be good and cycle to the running track from my house, instead of driving there as it’s shorter and would take me less time at 6pm… but it’s entirely on unlit roads, including one across a golf course… and the quality of the roads is terrible. There are massive potholes etc. There are some quite steep hills and I wasn’t confident with my usual light, which I think is probably only about 400-500 lumen now (its performance seems to have declined over time – they’re 3 years old – and I don’t think they were fully charged). The website gives a great comparison of what you could see with different lights – it’s teh best guide I’ve seen. (Scroll to the bottom of it)

  4. I hate road biking most of the winter … the answer is mountain biking! Fun in the dark, fun in the mud, fun in the snow, fun in the wind – speaking of which, just had a fantastic snow ride in the North Pennines today! 🙂

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